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Chad Baldwin
Room 137, Bureau of Mines Building
Laramie, WY
Phone: (307) 766-2929
Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

More Than 360 Students to Participate in Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day at UW


April 17, 2014 — Jeffrey Santos, Josh Sharpe and Qian Yang may be exploring different research topics, but all three University of Wyoming students are in the same position as hundreds of other students: they will present their work at the 15th annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day.

The event will take place Saturday, April 26, noon to 4 p.m., in the Classroom Building and the Wyoming Union. This year, more than 360 UW students and Wyoming community college students are expected to present their research. Undergraduate Research Day recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of undergraduate student researchers.

“A lot of getting to real-world solutions is mucking around in discovery,” says Sharpe, a UW senior majoring in molecular biology.

Oral and poster presentation topics will include research in agriculture, business, education, engineering, health sciences, biological and physical sciences, mathematical sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities. Abstracts of all presentations will be published.

Rick Matlock, senior project coordinator for Wyoming’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), describes the event as “a celebration of research.”

“These students aren’t lab assistants washing test tubes or cleaning cages. These students are designing and implementing their own research projects,” Matlock says. “It’s not uncommon for many of these students to graduate with their names published in peer-reviewed journals. In terms of graduate school admission or career development, that’s huge.”

Student research projects

Santos, a senior from Laramie with a double major in environmental geology and geohydrology, and environment and natural resources, plans to make a poster presentation, titled “Voice of the Rivers.”

In concert with the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG), Santos is recording the sound of four waterways -- Laramie, Libby Creek, Nash Fork and near Vedauwoo -- to determine whether there is a correlation between the sound profile of the river and how much water is flowing. He uses a pulley system of ropes across the rivers to position the microphone for a 15-minute recording of the sound profile.

“My hypothesis is that the pitch, frequency and amplitude will change as there is more or less water in the river,” says Santos who, before coming to UW, worked for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Then, I will find a statistical relationship between the sound waves and stream flow of water over a year.”

One of his goals is to bridge the gap between scientific researchers and the public. Santos has two projects in mind.

Qian Yang, a UW sophomore majoring in energy resource management, connects the testing cell for Niobium-doped titanium dioxide crystal.“One is to convert an elevator on campus into a sound experience of water with a panorama of rivers on the (elevator) walls,” he says. “And/or I would like to install a ‘cone of sound’ display in the lobby of the Berry Biodiversity Institute, coupled to an interactive touch screen displaying other cross-disciplinary work being done by WyCEHG.”

Sharpe, of Laramie, is a veteran of the undergraduate research day. As a student at Laramie County Community College, he presented once at the event and three other times since coming to UW. His poster presentation is titled “Ligand Binding Studies of Rhodobacter Spheroides TSPO.”

TSPO is a translocator protein found primarily in the outer mitochondrial membrane. It is involved in heme (a deep-red iron-containing blood pigment) and cholesterol transport. However, that particular protein also is linked to cardiac reperfusion, which is damage to heart tissue that occurs after an initial heart attack, Sharpe says.

“We’re trying to understand more about the protein, including its preferred substrates,” Sharpe says. “We use a variety of chemical and biochemical methods to understand details of the function of the protein. Our ultimate goal is to create 3-D structures of the proteins to identify active sites within TSPO.”

By isolating these sites, drugs can be designed for the proteins to combat the potential for cardiac reperfusion, he says.

Yang, a UW sophomore majoring in energy resource management, will present a solar energy conversion project -- both orally and in poster form -- at the event. His fundamental research looks at using a semiconductor called titanium dioxide to create a photo-voltaic panel, essentially one that produces electricity.

“I’m trying to figure out a new element for solar energy. It can be for a solar panel or other things,” says Yang, of Laramie. “I’m trying to find a new material that is cheaper and more efficient than what we are using right now. Right now, solar panel energy is expensive.”

Research schedule

Concurrent oral presentations will take place noon to 4 p.m. in the Classroom Building. Each oral presentation is 15 minutes, with a five-minute question-and-answer session to follow. Poster presentations will take place 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Family Room.

Presenters are expected to attend other presentations through the event. UW, Wyoming community college, high school students and the public are invited to attend the presentations.

“One of the best parts of Research Day is inviting the students’ family, friends, mentors and the general public to campus to see the incredible things that Wyoming’s undergraduate students are doing,” Matlock says.

The UW Libraries will provide a repository for electronic copies of the student presentations, and makes them available through the UW Libraries Digital Initiative at http://digital.uwyo.edu/

Research Day is sponsored by the UW Office of Research and Economic Development, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs; colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Health Sciences; Wyoming INBRE, UW Honors Program, McNair Scholars Program, Wyoming EPSCoR and the Wyoming NASA Space Consortium.

For more information, contact Beth Cable at (307) 766-3544 or email her at bcable@uwyo.edu.

Top Photo:
Jeffrey Santos, a UW senior, records sounds at the Laramie River. Santos, a double major in environmental geology and geohydrology, and environment and natural resources, plans to present a poster presentation, titled “Voice of the Rivers,” during Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day April 26.

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